Intentions, Seriously

I've been laid flat as a shadow by something flu-like. You can read about it on the '07 Tour Blog (I know you're dying to), where I think I've got one more post to write before I wrap it up over there. You can read my thoughts about blogging, too -- would love to hear what you think as well. Oh, and golly-days, I want to say thanks for subbing to One Pomegranate -- a whoosh of you flew in over the holidays -- it's a great Christmas present. So... where are your notebooks? Open 'em up. Let's talk about food. And weight. And intentions for 2008.

Okay, maybe not all three things at once. I will say though, that I have lost a total of 8.8 pounds since Thanksgiving in my quest to lose the half-a-billion pounds I put on this past three years on the road. Or was it six years? Yes. Six. How time flies. But the past three years have been especially fattening. One day I'm going to post about the weight thing. But right now, I'll just talk about food. I love food. Good food. I used to eat it sensibly. I do know how.

I have recovered sufficiently from the Black Death that claimed me the day after Christmas, to make a pot of vegetarian split-pea soup. That's red bell pepper you see in the pot, along with carrots, celery, onion, marjoram, s&p, garlic, and the splits. I had three red peppers left over from the stuffed peppers Hannah was going to make but didn't and they needed a quick home. So.

This luscious soup is simmering on my stove now, in my new 4-1/2 quart Calphalon saucepan. I coveted this pan (badly), and Santa brought it to me. Then I felt badly that Santa spent so much money on a SAUCEPAN (I'm a Value Village Girl, through and through); I even said, "Let's take it back," but then, next morning, I trundled to the kitchen and saw that pot sitting there, perky-like, on the stove, and I fell in love with it all over again. I can't help it. The pot stays.

Now it's simmering its first soup. I make killer soups. I will make biscuits next. I finally feel like eating again, after three days off food. This may account for my 1.2 pound weight loss at WW yesterday, despite my eating rampage through the delights of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I mean, who can live without eggnog at Christmas? Two eggnogs? Three?

Yesterday I dragged myself out of my sick bed (non-contagious, I hope, after 24 hours without fever), and into Weight Watchers, looking worse than death warmed over (cliche allowed). All the other weigh-ees took one look at me and Stood Back. I got weighed, I left. I'm a woman on a mission. Give me a year home (give or take a few meaningful gigs) and I'm gonna make something happen.

Back to food. I consumed approximately 75,462.5 calories on Christmas Day, eating many of the foods you see on recipe cards above. I got sick the next day, but it wasn't the food. It was some bug I picked up along the way, but I digress.

My new, lovely, sweetheart of a mother-in-law (I have a mother-in-law! May I call you Mom? I also have a sister!) gave me HER mother's Charleston Junior League Cookbook, published in 1950 -- I was so touched (and it's older than I am). It was full of receipts -- recipes -- on index cards, in her mother's handwriting -- a treasure. I want to make every recipe in this cookbook, especially the handwritten ones, but they all call for a cup of mayonnaise or two sticks of butter or cream of chicken soup. Of course. Still... just reading them makes me happy... and I WILL try some of them -- they are now part of my heritage, too.

I am intensely interested in food lately, after having spent literally years on the road eating unrecognizable food in strange restaurants, at pot lucks, in school cafeterias, vending machines, gas stations, and worse (don't ask), and seeing what people eat in different parts of the country (so interesting! Chicken and waffles! Shrimp and grits! And that's just a start...), how much or little they eat, and how important food is to our mental and emotional well-being. Just look at that cookbook stuffed with all those recipes torn from the newspaper, from backs of boxes, written on yellowing paper, saved. Food is a social tool. It's a celebration. It's a commiseration. It's everything! And I have eaten literally everything in this past several years on the road.

I used to be a vegetarian. I used to eat whole foods. Organic whole foods. I happily ate plants, grains, beans, fruits, nuts, and combined my proteins and got along just fine. Then came book publication and all the road travel that attended making a living as a suddenly-single parent, and there was no way to eat a sufficient supper at the 1,456 airports I've waited in, in the past six years, not to mention the "complimentary breakfasts" at the Hampton Inns of the world. (Have you ever, seriously, microwaved one of those egg concoctions in plastic wrap with a biscuit wrapped around it, with what passes for cheese in the middle? I have. Be clogged my arteries.)

Then there is the food from my books (I always make sure there are good cooks in my books, cooks with recipes like the ones you see here), food which I've eaten in many of the 4,267 schools I've visited in the past six years. I have slurped down 582 root beer floats and 16 gallons of sweet iced tea. I have eaten 148 tuna fish sandwiches, 11 plates of Vienna sausages and Ritz Crackers, 3 bowls of succotash, forty-eleven Comfort-Snowberger Brownies, a whole half of Mrs. Elling's Chicken and Potato Chip Casserole. Don't get me started on the mountain of Moon Pies (and, I'm sorry to say, I adore them). I've eaten foods I didn't even remember I'd put in my books, such as a loaf of prune bread (still warm), a quart of stewed tomatoes (I promise) and zucchini six ways to Sunday, mostly fried.

All numbers approximate.

Still and all, I am not complaining. I was delighted to go on tour with THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS this fall -- what great friends I made (what great food I ate!) -- and I remain touched by the ways teachers have combined math and science and social studies with a novel study and have made the land of Ruby Lavender, Comfort Snowberger, House Jackson, and even Joe and John Henry in FREEDOM SUMMER come alive for young readers.

Now... I'm laughing out loud as I type that because it comes on the heels of me saying next that my clothes don't fit anymore. Am I still touched? Yes, I am. In more ways than one. And I have had fun, lots of fun. However...

I weigh more than I've ever weighed in my life, and it's time to get off the road and eat sensibly, where I can control what's on my fork.

Time to gather vegetables. FRESH vegetables! Organic vegetables! Time to drink water, all day long. Sip tea. Time to break out the miso and tofu and tempeh, time to simmer beans on the back of the stove all morning and bake a cast-iron skillet full of cornbread made from coarsely-ground cornmeal. Time to steam the organic broccoli and grate a bit of fresh parmesan on the whole-wheat pasta and toss some sunflower seeds into the spinach salad. Time to get eat healthy -- healthily -- again.

That's an intention for 2008. What's one of your intentions for the new year? Put it in your notebook. Why is it important to you? What connotations does it conjure? What does it look like, this intention fulfilled? What does it smell like, sound like, taste like, feel like? What does it remind you of? What memory? Write me 500 words. Write short, one page, front and back or less. Do not meander, as I have done. ("Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!") No one need see it but you; it's for your notebook. Write it for you. You'll use it later. You'll see.

Then go read the Sunday New York Times appreciation of Peg Bracken, author of THE I HATE TO COOK BOOK, and one of my heroes. She died this year, but her recipes will always be here, her legacy to women in my mother's generation and beyond. Aside from her signature wisecracks (her recipe for "Hootenholler Whiskey Quick Bread" begins "1/4 cup bourbon, plus more for you"), she wrote that most of the recipes she traded with a group of women friends "were copied from batter-spattered file cards belonging to people who had copied them from other batter-spattered file cards, because a good recipe travels as far, and fast, as a good joke."

Exactly. Just look how far those Charleston Receipts have traveled. Almost as far as I have in the past six years.

Don't forget about that intention. 500 words. Write short and true. Begin with the word "Because...."

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